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Latest Update from USA - 1/22/24

Dear Loved Ones,

 

Thank you for your continued prayers for us, our safety and for an end to this terrible war here in Ukraine. Today is the 698th day since the Russian invasion and all out war against the Ukrainian people. Only because of the Lord's protection can we once again say that we are safe. His mercies are new EVERY morning. GREAT is His faithfulness!

 

We are just now finishing our Christmas season here in Ukraine. It's interesting, because here, rather than the build-up to Christmas in the months and weeks before December 25th, like in the States, much of the celebrations and activities take place after Christmas... even weeks after!

 

Oh, but before we tell you about our Christmas ministries, we have to share with you about our warm clothes distributions. As you remember, at the end of 2022, you all helped us collect over TWO TONS of warm clothes, blankets and peanut butter for Ukrainians in need. Sadly, we weren't able to distribute these clothes at the beginning of 2023 as we had hoped (due to prolonged shipping time.) So it was only at the end of November, as the weather was starting to get extra cold, that we were able to host a clothing distribution at our church in Kyiv. We were blessed by the many ladies at our church who helped with the organization of the distribution. And we were blown away by how quickly we were able to distribute all of these clothes and blankets. Many, many refugees, internally displaced and needy people were able to find good, warm clothes thanks to the generosity of so many of you all! We had some people come and ask if they could take some clothes and distribute them in a hospital - we were able to give them two boxes. Another woman, Angelina and her mother came and took a big box full of thermal underwear, warm, wool socks, and jackets and coats for men in her husband's military unit. Angelina's husband had been stationed somewhere near the front lines and they were able to send these clothes to him and his brigade. We also were able to give Angelina a lot of peanut butter which she sent on to the guys on the front lines as well. Each one who came and took clothes was also given a jar(s) of peanut butter. 

 

Dear friends, we can't thank you enough for your generosity and the love you showed to the Ukrainian people through this clothes drive. In only about three hours, we were able to distribute almost all of the clothes to many, many appreciative people. Here are a few of the many thanks we received from grateful recipients:

 

"I thank God and I want to thank all those who donated, gathered and sent all these clothes and humanitarian aid to us in Ukraine. Thank you so much!" - Nina, a 77 year old grandmother proudly wearing a new jacket she found for herself! 🥰

 

"Dear friends in America, we are so, SO grateful for your generosity! This is very precious to us. I am just amazed at how you were able to collect SO many boxes, so many clothes and so many blessings! See, my little daughter, Melania and I are now wearing sweaters that you gave! By God's mercy, we were able to take many warm things for ourselves and we are so grateful. I don't know who exactly to pray for, who exactly to thank. But I hope that the person who gave the things that we received, will read this, and know just how thankful we are for you! Thank you to ALL those who took part in this amazing ministry. We are praying God's blessings on each of you. And I am reminded of the verse in Philippians 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." May God truly meet all your needs! Again, we are so, so thankful and we treasure each one of you!" 🤗 - Katya and little Melania

 

We also want to say once again, thank you, THANK YOU, to all of you for bringing warmth, comfort and hope to many, many people this Christmas season. In this clothes drive, we were simply the distributors, you all were the real heroes in this ministry. Thank you for your generosity and love towards those who have suffered so much because of this war. Only in heaven will we know the full impact of your generosity. But we have confidence that it will be HUGE!

 

Now on to Christmas!

 

Loriann was especially busy this past month and a half, as she baked and gave Christmas breads to almost 150 people! This is by far a record for her. But she was helped tremendously by being able to do most of her baking at our church, in the commercial oven there. It literally took her an eighth of the time it would have taken her if she were to have done it here at the house! People continue to rave over the tastiness of her sweet treats. When asked if she can share her recipe for this bread with others, she politely tells them no, she unfortunately can't... it's a Matchak family secret recipe and she has been sworn to secrecy. 🤫 Thanks Mom Matchak for passing on your tradition to Loriann! Our Ukrainian friends are only too grateful!

 

Over this past Christmas season, we've also been able to host around 60 people in our little home through numerous Christmas and New Years parties. Right before Christmas, we hosted a record 24 teens for our annual teen Christmas party. That's a lot of energy, noise and SOOO many hungry mouths! But we had a great time singing carols, playing games, reading the Christmas story together and then having an interesting Secret Santa gift exchange. Remember, it's teens we're talking about here!!! But everyone went home happy and we were happy that they went home! 😉 We especially want to thank those of you who gave fleece blankets during our clothes drive last time we were home. Each of the teens was given a new warm fleece for Christmas as well. They were especially excited about this gift!

 

For ten days over the New Year holiday, we had so much fun hosting two little girls from the Chernobyl area! (about two hours north of Kyiv.) Vlada (11) and Inna (8) are true orphans, both parents having died. They live with their maternal grandmother in a village in the Chernobyl area. Sadly, the grandmother is an alcoholic and is drunk much of the time. We have known these girls for a couple of years now, Inna even stayed a week with us two years ago during the summer. But we thought it would be good to get them out of the grandmother’s house during the New Years holiday, because she was probably going to be drunk most of the time. We loved having the girls… and the girls loved being with us! We had such a fun time with them. We took them to the circus in Kyiv (their first time!), Loriann took them ice skating (Inna’s first time!). We cooked with them, painted with them, went walking together in our Central Park, read bible stories with them at night and just had a fun time with them. Loriann even bought some gifts for them and filled stockings and put them under our Christmas tree for them one morning before they woke up. They were so surprised to see gifts under the tree with their names on them. It was the first time they had ever received Christmas gifts or a stocking. They were so excited! It was fun to see that wonder and excitement in their eyes. At the end of their time with us, they went back to their grandmother's, very tired, loaded with goodies and anxious to come back to us again! We hope to host them again this summer…? Please pray for Vlada and Inna. As we have written about before, there is not a lot of hope in their village. Most adults there are fully dependent on the State and either alcoholics or drug addicts. People live in abject poverty with no hope for a future. Pray that God would protect these girls and that they would remember the love they received in our home and the Bible stories and lessons they heard. We already have plans to visit them in February!

 

We could go on and on about our Christmas ministries. Joel was especially busy with pastoral duties, as three of our other pastors were out of the country for the past month. So with all of our busyness and extra responsibilities, we are extra grateful for the good health God has given us this winter! Thank you for your prayers for us in this area.

 

Again, we realize that without you and your support; financially and in prayer, so much of what we do here would not be possible. As you can see, through your generosity, many people are blessed. We are daily humbled by your trust in us and we are honored to be your missionaries here in Ukraine.

 

May God bless you and your families abundantly in this New Year! 🎉

 

With much love,

Joel & Loriann Matchak

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